1869: William Hornby & the Artillery Brewery, Williamstown, Victoria.

An unusual pencil sketched design for a stained glass window exists in the State Library or Victoria.  Amongst a collection of drawings, on fragile torn tracing paper is the design and associated sketches for a stained glass window intended for William Hornby’s historic Artillery Brewery at Williamstown in Victoria. The design is by the hand of the English stained glass artist David Relph Drape (1821-1882) who came to Australia in 1858 and worked as Ferguson & Urie’s senior stained glass artist from 1863 until his death in 1882.

The central picture depicted in the windows design is a coastal artillery gun taken from the exact depiction of the Sir William Armstrong Rifled Muzzle Loading Fortress Gun. Two of these historic old guns still exist in the park area along the Williamstown foreshore across the bay from Melbourne. The guns date from 1867 and were originally installed at Fort Gellibrand circa 1867.

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Despite significant research, to this day it’s not known whether the stained glass window was ever actually created, and if so, what was its fate? Did it get destroyed or, like many historical artefacts, is it hidden away in an old garage or attic somewhere ready to be found again in years to come?

So who was William Hornby?

William Hornby (1821-1898) was the son of Anthony Hornby and Catherine Kelly. As a 22 year old Iron Moulder from Liverpool, he would begin his life in the Australian Colonies as a convict in Van Diemens Land..

Tried and convicted at Lancaster, Liverpool, on the 25th July 1842 for housebreaking, he was sentenced to ten years in Van Diemens Land for his crime.

The convict ship ‘Cressy’ departed Plymouth on the 28th March 1843 and arrived off the coast and into Lagoon Bay on the 17th August 1843, having ‘overshot’ the entrance to Storm Bay. Coincidentally the new Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony, Sir Eardley Wilmot (1783-1847) was on the same ship[1]. Hornby was immediately sent to work with the convict gangs at Fingal for a period of five years.

In 1848 the Convict Department granted him a ticket-of-leave[2] and in July 1849  Lieutenant Governor, Sir William Thomas Dennison (1804-1871) made recommendation for Hornby’s conditional pardon[3] which wasn’t granted until October 1850[4]

At the age of 29 he married 22 year old Frances Hopson in Hobart on the 21st of June 1852[5]. Their first child, Fanny Hopson Hornby was born in Hobart on the 30th March 1853[6], followed by William Anthony in 1855[7], Alfred Arthur in 1856[8], Emily Maria in 1859[9], and Walter John in 1862[10].

At a Publican’s Licensing meeting at Hobart in August 1852 William Hornby was granted the transfer of the victuallers licence, vice Joseph Riches, of the “Oporto Wine Vaults” in Liverpool street Hobart[11].

By 1856 he has established himself as a respected businessman in Hobart and had taken an active role amongst the publicans and innkeepers of the town in the reforms of the Licensing Act,[12] and is by 1858 a brother of the Hobart Macquarie-street Masonic Lodge No.345[13]

Shortly before two o’clock on the 10th January 1862, a fire broke out between the Oporto Wine Vaults and the adjacent Salier’s drapery store. The stock from both premises was saved but the upper floor and roof of both buildings was destroyed. A later inquest[14] determined that the fire broke out in the roof of Hornby’s premises but the cause was unknown. Both premises were fortunately insured[15] The damage to both properties was eventually repaired but lengthy legal disputes continued into 1864 as to who was liable to pay certain amounts for the repair of the party walls and other damage between the two premises[16].

Only two days after the fire Hornby’s son Walter John was born on the 12th January 1862[17]

Hornby continued in the liquor trade despite some confusion which arose regards his use of the appointed liquor licence to operate from another temporary premise as a result of the fire[18].

On the 30th October 1864 he undertook a short trip to Melbourne aboard the Southern Cross[19] and returned via the same on the 10th November. This would be one of many trips to the mainland in the next three years as he plans his exit from Tasmania to Melbourne. Less than six months later tragedy would strike the family. His eldest, Fanny Hopson, was struck with a serious illness and after suffering a mere two days she died on the 7th April 1865 at the age of twelve.[20]

In July 1865 Hornby conducted a sweep for the Melbourne Cup which was to be drawn at 8 o’clock on the evening of 3rd July at “Hornby’s Hotel” (the Oporto Wine Vaults) in Liverpool street[21]. The sweep was so popular that it increased the patronage at his hotel significantly. Deciding to expand on the idea, he again offered a second sweep in August with a prize of 100 sovereign’s[22]. The individuals or syndicates, who had drawn “Torboy”, the Cup winner, would receive handsome rewards. Later in December he again offered another sweep of 300 sovereigns on the Melbourne and Launceston Champion Races[23]. Not content to stick to horse racing he offered a sweep in the Champion Rifle Match competition held on the 26th February 1866[24].

Not content to restrict his business ventures to the publicans arena, in August 1865 he decided to expand his interests to gold mining and in accordance with the “Gold Fields Regulation Act”, he was granted a one month lease of 60 acres of land in the district of Fingal[25]. Further financial interests in the stock market were included amongst which was a shareholding in the Tasmanian Steam Navigation Company in March 1866 [26].

In April 1866 he offers a £5 reward for the conviction of the malicious person who fired a shot into his property at Battery Point, breaking several panes of glass[27].

By 1867 he was earnestly planning his exit from Tasmania and in February of 1867, William Hornby of the Oporto Wine Vaults, transferred his licence to John Hanson.[28]

On the 16th October 1867[29] he made another short trip to Melbourne, presumably this is one of the last ventures to the mainland to secure accommodation and establish future business ventures in Melbourne. In attempt to reign in debts owed to him, numerous legal proceedings are initiated in Hobart, one of which, in March 1868,  included one of a sizeable sum of £250 owed to him by the insolvent William Hurley[30]

On 27th Feb 1868, the Hobart auction agents Roberts & Co were“… favored with instructions from Mr. Hornby, who is about to leave the Colony, to sell by public auction, on the premises, Liverpool-street, on FRIDAY, 6th March, at eleven o’clock…”[31]

William Hornby and his family departed for Melbourne aboard the ‘Southern Cross’ on Saturday 7th March 1868[32], which arrived at the Port of Melbourne two days later on the 9th: – “Mr and Mrs Hornby and family (four)…”[33]

The family’s household furniture and effects at Melville-street Hobart went up for Auction on Friday 13th March 1868[34].

December of 1868 appears to be the first indication of Hornby’s exploits as a brewer at Emerald Hill (now known as South Melbourne).  Publican George Sefton was taken to court by Hornby because he had paid ten percent less for goods supplied to him by Hornby, a practice which Sefton claimed as the accepted practice between Publicans and Brewers. The court awarded in favour of Sefton[35].

By 1869 Hornby had partnered with another brewer named William John Disher and together they took over the existing brewing business of John Breheny who had established himself making “Artillery” beer in the former volunteer Artillery Drill Hall (near the Steam Packet Hotel) at Williamstown. The old drill hall was at that time quite famous in its own right as the former stockade building which had accommodated the convicts working on the Gellibrand pier in the early 1850’s.

Intent on updating the brewing equipment, on the 20th May 1869 “Hornby & Co” advertised the “second hand brewer’s plant for sale” from premises at Williamstown[36]

The partnership with Disher only lasted a short period and on the 12th Aug 1869 a notice was gazetted advising of the dissolution of partnership between him and Disher in the “Williamstown Brewery”. [37] [38]

By 1875 the Hornby and his brewing operations are very well known and the Williamstown Chronicle published a lengthy article about the Hornby Brewery, its operations, and the history of the old convict building it was erected in.

“Amongst the recognised institutions of Williamstown, one of the most popular is “Hornby’s beer.” We find it literally “in the mouths” of all classes of the community, and the establishment from which it emanates takes rank with the foremost of our local industries…” [39]

On the 8th of May 1878 his second son, Alfred Arthur Hornby married Sophia Victoria Hall at St John’s Church in Colac Victoria[40].

In 1886, at the age of 65 William Hornby is still making improvements to the brewery and machinery, although his son Alfred is by this time taking a managerial position in the company[41].

On the 28th January 1898 William Hornby died destitute at the Masonic Home in Prahran at the age of 77.[42]

Numerous failed investments and an overly generous purse would seem to have been his fall from prosperity and on his death he was described as:

“Charitable to the core, he endeared himself to those who knew and respected him in his days of affluence, and regret remains that the unkind hand of fate or fortune should have stricken him in the latter days of his career

“…no man could say that his purse was closed when an appeal for help was made; yet, the man who was the friend of many found himself not deserted in his own hour of need, for Masonic brethren smoothed his quickly downward path. As a man, his one fault was that he possessed a generous heart which ultimately led to his impoverishment…”[43]

His son Alfred Arthur Hornby continued to run the brewery briefly but it eventually fell into the hands of the Carlton Brewery conglomerate.

The historic convict stockade building that housed the brewery was demolished in the 1950’s. Another piece of history was lost to the wrecker’s ball.

No evidence of the stained glass window has ever been found other than the original design sketches by the artist David Relph Drape from the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company.

Significant Article Transcriptions & Sources:

Victorian Government Gazette, 40, Friday August 20th 1869, page 1275.


NOTICE is hereby given that the partnership heretofore carried on by us, the undersigned William Hornby and William John Disher, at the Williamstown Brewery, Williamstown, under the style of “W. Hornby and Co.,” has this day been dissolved by mutual consent, and that all debts and liabilities owing to and by the said partnership will be received and paid by the undersigned William Hornby.

Dated this twelvth day of August, 1869.





Solicitor, Melbourne.

No. 1712”.

Williamstown Chronicle, Vic, Saturday 20th March 1875, page 3.


“Amongst the recognised institutions of Williamstown, one of the most popular is “Hornby’s beer.” We find it literally “in the mouths” of all classes of the community, and the establishment from which it emanates takes rank with the foremost of our local industries. The brewery is not of recent origin, and although all along it has boasted of the pretentious title of the “Artillery Brewery,” the townsfolk have ignored the martial designation in preference for the name of the spirited proprietor, and so long as he has anything to do with it, it is likely to be known only as “Hornby’s brewery.” Everyone knows its location – near the Steampacket hotel. The building has a history of its own, and is one of those old-day landmarks which assist the early residents of Williamstown in recapitulating the infantile circumstances of the “village.” The building was originally erected for the accommodation of the prisoners employed o the works at Gellibrand’s point, and indeed its sturdy proportions would lead the most casual spectator to attribute its design to a Government architect. The transfer of the prisoners to the penal hulks rendered the building available for other purposes, and when the Rifle Corps was established, the recruits of the “grey brigade” were put through their facings on the first floor, where fermenting vats, &c., now reign supreme. For many years the building continued to reveal its primitive character in its name, but it has long since lost its appellative “Stockade” and become known to us only as Hornby’s brewery. There are few purposes for which it is better adapted than that to which it is now devoted. Bare, spacious, unpartitioned rooms, indifferently lighted, massive walls, iron barred windows, and a very retired position are qualifications which do admirably for a brewery, although not appropriate for most other business uses. The premises cover half-an-acre of ground, which of course affords ample accommodation for the multifarious out-buildings, &c., essential to such and establishment. The building is so high that there is no necessity for pumping or raising the liquid to higher levels by any other means, during the process of brewing – the water is first boiled by steam in a vat at the very top of the building, and from that time till the beer is casked it passes from one vessel to another by gravitation, travelling from roof to cellar. The “hot liquor vat,” of which we have made mention as being at the top of the building, is some 30 feet from the ground. Into it the aqua pura is supplied by a Yan Yean supply pipe. The water is heated by means of a tubular worm lying in the vat, through which passes a current of steam direct from the boiler. A thermometer hung under a tap in the vat enables the brewer to ascertain when the water has attained the requisite temperature. From the hot liquor vat, the water is turned into the mash tun, where the mashed malt has already been deposited. The malt is crushed or mashed between iron rollers, worked by a ten-horse horizontal engine; and after being so crushed the grain without the flour is lifted by a series of cups or elevators (such as are seen in flour mills) to a hopper on a higher level near the mash-tun. The ensure the thorough saturation of the malt in the mash-tun, an ingenious contrivance known by the brewer as a “sparging machine” is employed. It revolves by centrifugal force, throwing out innumerable jets of water, so that the grain in every part of the tun is thoroughly soaked. After the liquor has remained in the mash-tun a sufficient length of time – and in determining this, the judgement of the brewer is relied upon – it is filtered off through a perforated false bottom into the copper, great care being taken to prevent any of the grains getting away with the liquor. This grain is afterwards taken out, and sold to dairymen and others for fattening cattle, pigs, &c. The “copper” is a large vat, constructed of wood, in which is another copper worm tube, charged with steam for the purpose of boiling the liquor, as is done in the hot liquor vat. Before the liquor is boiled this time, however, the hops is added, and during the process another ingredient – sugar – is introduced. The sugar is boiled before being used, the necessary heat being obtained by steam as in other cases. Leaving the copper almost at boiling heat, the worts is carried over the refrigerator – a number of pipes kept cool by an incessant stream of cold Yan Yean passing through them – and enters the “gyle,” or fermenting vat, at the very mild temperature of 74 degrees. To keep down the heat generated by the process of fermentation, a temperator is used. This is a framework of piping lowered into the “gyle,” through which a stream of Yan Yean passes. The hops does not accompany the liquor into the fermenting vat, but is retained in the copper, any virtue which might remain in the hops is extracted by its being “squozen” in a hop-press, and the extract added to the liquor in the fermenting vat. The liquor remains in the fermenting vats – there are two, each 7 feet deep, by 7 feet in diameter, made of Kauri pine staves, 3in thick – for from 30 to 50 hours, according to circumstances, and from these it is carried by piping to hogsheads ranged up and down the cellar. Each brew is marked, and no liquor permitted to go out till it has remained at least eight days in the cellar, and sometimes nearly three weeks. When we paid our visit there were nearly 200 hogsheads in the cellar, which is 30 feet by 66ft in extent. The floor is bricked, and gas and water laid on. Adjoining there is another cellar of almost equal proportions. There is every requisite for such an establishment. The patronisers of Hornby’s brew would derive considerable satisfaction from seeing the care taken to ensure cleanliness in each operation. The casks are scoured by steam everytime they are wanted; and the very best materials are employed in the manufacture of the ale. Excellent sugar is used; the best Kent or Gipps Land hops; and the best malt purchasable. And the skill and attention devoted to the operation of brewing are attained by the excellent results obtained. We are informed that Mr Hornby purposes increasing his establishment by building a kiln, and doing his own malting on the premises.”

Williamstown Chronicle, Vic, Saturday 11th December 1886, page 3.


“THE present is an age of improvement and progress, and we are glad to observe that Williamstown tradesmen and business people are no exception to the rule. This may be gathered from the excellent external appearance of our shops and the amiable arrangement for the accommodation of the public when making their purchases. Amongst; others we notice Messrs. Hornby and Co., of the Artillery Brewery, are endeavouring to keep pace with the times, by the introduction of improved machinery into their works…”

Williamstown Chronicle, Vic, Saturday 29th January 1898, page 3.



“INTIMATION of the decease of Mr Hornby, who departed this life in the Masonic Home yesterday, will be received with deep regret by all those in Williamstown who knew him in his palmiest days. Charitable to the core, he endeared himself to those who knew and respected him in his days of affluence, and regret remains that the unkind hand of fate or fortune, should have stricken him in the latter days of his career. For over 45 years he conducted a prosperous business in our midst, and no man could say that his purse was closed when an appeal for help was made; yet, the man who was the friend of many found himself not deserted in his own hour of need, for Masonic brethren smoothed his quickly downward path. As a man, his one fault was that he possessed a generous heart which ultimately led to his impoverishment, but when the Great Architect of he Universe comes to cast up his account, may the record read – “Thus mote it be; go thou and receive thy reward.”

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Monday 7th February 1898, page 1.

“HORNBY.-On the 28th January, at his late residence, Punt-road, Prahran, William Hornby, brewer, late of Williamstown, aged 77 years.”


William Hornby (age 29), married Frances Hopson (age 22) at Hobart 21st June 1852, Tas BDM:675/1852.

William Hornby:

Died: Prahran, Victoria, age 77, 28th January 1898. Vic BDM: 4331/1898.

Parents: Anthony Hornby & Catherine Kelly.

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Monday 7th February 1898, page 1.


Fanny Hopson Hornby:

Born: Hobart, 30 March 1853, Tas BDM: 2248/1853

Parents: William Hornby & Frances Hopson.

Died: Hobart, 7th April 1865, age 12, Tas BDM: 4945/1865.

“After a brief illness of only 2 days”

The Mercury, Hobart, Tas, Saturday 8th April 1865, page 1.

William Anthony Hornby:

Born: 20 Jun 1855, Tas BDM: 191/1855.

Alfred Arthur Hornby:

Born: 1856 TAS BDM: 1861/1856

Alfred Arthur Hornby married Sophia Victoria Hall in Colac, Victoria in 1878.
VIC BDM: 1373/1878

Married at St John’s, Colac, Vic, 8th May 1878.

The Mercury, Hobart, Tas, Saturday 1st June 1878, page 1.

Emily Maria Hornby:

Born: Hobart 4th Sept 1859, Tas BDM: 2770/1859

The Hobart Town Daily Mercury, Tas, Friday 9th September 1859, page 2.

She died: 1st July 1881 at ‘Atherstone’, Albert Park (reg as Eastern Hill), Melb, in 1881 aged  21, VIC BDM: 7244/1881

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Monday 4th July 1881, page 1.

Walter John Hornby:

Born: 12 Jan 1862, Tas BDM: 4973/1862

The Mercury, Hobart, Tas, Tuesday 14th January 1862, page 2.

He died: 17th July 1951, aged 89, at 14 Melrose-street, Richmond Victoria. Vic BDM: 7932/1951.

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Wednesday 18th July 1951, page 14.

Wife: Bertha?


[5] TAS BDM:675/1852

[6] TAS BDM: 2248/1853

[7] TAS BDM: 191/1855.

[8] TAS BDM: 1861/1856

[9] TAS BDM: 2770/1859

[10] TAS BDM: 4973/1862


2 comments on “1869: William Hornby & the Artillery Brewery, Williamstown, Victoria.

  1. From Richard Ely, an early admirers of your enterprising forensic investigations. Your expansion of your interests from stained glass windows to what is more like cultural and economic history impresses me. Best wishes, and hope to see more of your work. When do you find time for anything else?


    • Thanks Richard,
      The historical background of the Colonial Pioneers that the windows were either commissioned by, or dedicated to, or other interesting historical background, makes for more interesting reading or research I think. I also noted that you had also cited some of my research in the ‘Newsletter of the Religious History Association, March 2013’. Thanks for the recognition. It’s a refreshing change to be cited by a reputable historical association rather than seeing it merely copied or regurgitated by the mass social media environments.
      There are many more windows to research and it will undoubtedly never be finished in my lifetime.


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